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A History of Sir Arthur Meighan University





Sir Arthur Meighan University began as a post-secondary school called Mercy College. It was established in 1890 on the Eastern bank of Georgian Bay by the Jesuit order. The college's secluded location in the wilderness of Northern Ontario allowed the priests to conduct their forbidden research -- away from the questioning eyes of the more liberal church authority in the urbanized south. The school's Latin motto was Satine Caloris Tibi Est, which roughly translates into English as "Hot enough for you?"




Mercy College Jesuit founders, Father Xavier Churchill PhD (Oxford), S.J. and Father Gregory Lennon PhD (SUNY), S.J.



The Jesuit order mandated the college with the task of discovering why sin fails to diminish -- and often increases -- among youths following their confirmation in Christ. Subjects (students) were in great supply from the nearby towns of Penob Creek and Kitch Creek. Parents were delighted that their young, wayward sons now had a last chance at a higher education (and a little discipline) before being forced to commit their lads to the seminary. In 1914, the Jesuits, itching to get in on the fun and carnage of the Great War, placed the running of Mercy College into the hands of lay educators from Penob Creek and Kitch Creek. During the war years, the interim administration widened the college's academic scope and managed to add a couple of teachers with credentials from recognized institutions.


After the signing of the Versailles Treaty, the Jesuits returned to Mercy College. They were anxious to continue their questionable pursuits and institute some new proctoring methods they had picked up in the midst of bitter trench warfare. The priests were, however, horrified to find that the lay educators had quietly introduced a math program. Math! Math teaches there are no absolutes. If there are no absolutes, then absolutely everything in the Bible can be interpreted to mean absolutely anything. This math business would have to go. Scripture, Latin, and Aristotle were vital to the future of Canada's economy, not Calculus, Algebra, and Statistics. The Jesuits attempted to remove the lay administration and the school's Math department, but they did not bargain for the tenacity exhibited by people with recession-proof jobs (as well as the covert support a local bank that was hoping to get rich off the teachers' pension fund). The priests waged a fierce assault against the entrenched administration. The struggle had degenerated into a drawn-out battle of attrition when Hitler's forces invaded Poland. The Jesuits quickly packed off for Europe and the Far East to get in on a new free-for-all round of man's inhumanity to man.


Meanwhile, during the high-profile tussle waged on the grounds of the college, the rapidly expanding Penob Creek and the booming, industrialized Kitch Creek seized on the lack of attention on local politics and simultaneously tried to annex each other. A provincial mediator stepped in and got both mayors to agree to form a new town. Penobkitch Creek (voted the best suggested name in a local competition with Kitchpenob Creek running a close second) was incorporated in 1922.




Mercy College's President Father Carling J. Ackladder (left) and Penobkitch Creek's first mayor Oberon Hiram (right) taken on the first day of the historic Penob Creek-Kitch Creek Peace Accords.



During World War II, Mercy College's Math department received world recognition, and contributed significantly to the war effort, by devising useful formulae for computing gun elevation and shell deflection. The Mercy College Jesuits also distinguished themselves with their strong, unswerving ministry to wounded Allied soldiers. Being able to tell a dying man, without hesitation, that he was going to hell won them the notice of the Pope. After the war, the Papacy had most of the Mercy College priests transferred permanently to Rome to police the city's movie houses and book stores. Only a small group was left at the college to garrison a Religious Studies department.


Mercy College continued along quietly for the next two decades. In this span, the faculty became composed of an odd assortment of intellectuals who wished to pursue their scholarship in the quiet, obscure surroundings of Penobkitch Creek.


During the Deifenbaker years, Penobkitch's steadfast Tory vote gave it enough behind-the-scenes pull to win it the right to turn the college into a full-fledged university. It was decided to name Mercy College after Canada's most inconsequential prime minister, Arthur Meighan. The two-time Prime Minister's grand summer cottage was a well-known fixture in the community and the fish kills the Meighan family used to host are still fondly remembered by Penobkitch's senior residences. The new administration quickly abandoned the school's old motto and adopted the motto Consecratus Amore Fraterno (Dedicated to Brotherly Love) for Sir Arthur Meighan University (affectionately known as Meighan U).


The curriculum was further broadened to include Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Physics, Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, English, and Philosophy. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Communication Studies, Political Science, Business, Education, Classical Civilizations, and various graduate programs, including Law, were added. Tax dollars poured into the area, roads were added, and a small airport was built. Greatness was predicted for the fledgling university. Penobkitch's citizens were easily deluded into believing their own publicity and that of the media, who will rarely not print something glowing if there is a free meal and nice hotel room involved.


Unfortunately several factors conspired to keep the "Future McGill of Northern Ontario" (as described by a cub reporter unaccustomed to the lucre of his profession) obscure. Despite new roads and an airport making Penobkitch Creek easily accessible to the citizens of Toronto, Guelph, London, Waterloo and Kitchener, few of those citizens came to what seemed a dull, gritty industrial town. Furthermore, the shinning preeminence of those cities' established universities left Meighan in shadow.





Mercy College then and now. Sir Arthur Meighan University has been described by many as the ultimate living museum of '60s campus architecture.


Since its investiture as a university, Meighan has consistently drawn the lowest number of first-year Ontario scholars. In a repeat of its days as Mercy College, Meighan U has become in the minds of students and parents a Last Chance U. Although Meighan U does not shine in the public realm, in academic circles it is known as a place where an intellectual can pursue his/her field of interest, no matter how esoteric, and get paid well for it. Its many departments, notably the Math department, are staffed by a number of men and women possessing a genius unrecognizable or socially unacceptable to university administrations concerned with sheer output.


Since Meighan U's creation, it has had its moments of glory (owing to the odd genius of its professors and students) quickly followed by obscurity after a patent battle or court injunction. For this reason Linda Frum, in her authoritative guide to the universities of Canada, summed the school up best as "...the flying Dutchman of post-secondary education."